Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some Musings on Recognition

Watching the Golden Globe awards the other night, a couple of things struck me. The first was that people who do excellent work were being recognized for it. The reason that struck me is that, in my personal and consulting experience during the last decade, I have seen essentially nothing resembling a corporate award program for excellence in the workplace in the United States. I'm sure there are companies that still engage in this now seemingly quaint activity, but such things are not the norm anymore.

So what's up with that? Are we so deeply buried in the "just be happy you have a job" mentality that we have no time or interest to promote and reward excellence in the workplace? Perhaps this is a symptom of the pervasive job dissatisfaction plaguing the US. Currently 55% of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. I'm not sure where the answer lies. What I do know is that we cannot afford to have a largely disaffected workforce if we in the US intend to avoid a sharp and disastrous economic decline.

The other thing that struck me about the awards show was that, as each winner spoke about the privilege of receiving the award, thanking parents, spouses, children, directors, actors, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, etc., they all kept coming back to the statement that their project was a collaborative endeavor involving a team of dedicated professionals. Martin Scorsese hit on this point repeatedly in his speech.

So what does any of this have to do with coaching Agile teams? The first thought I have is that there is nothing inimical to teamwork in recognizing individual contributions to the success of the team. We don't want to encourage the development of a hero mentality within a team or destructive internal competition, but it is entirely appropriate to recognize individual excellence in a team setting.

How do we recognize excellence in a way that promotes teamwork? One excellent way is to include appreciations in every team retrospective. Not only do appreciations help build a team mentality, they also provide an incredibly appropriate setting in which to recognize individual excellence in a team setting.

All for now....



  1. Excellent post! I totally agree with your recommendations about appreciation.

    Some sprints back, one team I work with had a bad sprint. Nearly every story bogged down with some issue that was not known at the start of the sprint. The mood was low.

    That was the sprint I put a column for "Appreciations" on the retrospective board. We knew we still had problems but by the end of the sprint, the team was smiling. They learned to thank each other in public!

    Since then they insist on having an "Appreciations" column or sections on the retrospective board, no matter the mood of the sprint. It is a great part of creating a team that gels!

  2. Thanks Alan,

    Appreciations make such a huge difference in large part because in our work we generally don't express appreciation for our teammates.